Thursday, September 11, 2008

The New FM

Many have talked about HD Radio being in the same spot FM radio was in the late 60's--still early, with the potential for exponential growth coming. Sadly, this is very far from an accurate comparison. In truth, for reasons you've read and heard a thousand times, HD is miles behind in a race that it is not likely to win. From weak programming to signal and interference issues to very few radios sold this venture is a "tough putt."

However, a real growth story is beginning to develop--[streaming] on-line. I can't say I'm surprised to hear that in PPM markets New York, LA, and Chicago a growing cume story is emerging. Inside Radio had that story this morning:
Streaming makes a bigger showing in PPM ratings. Stations meeting minimum reporting standards for online listening more than tripled last month, as 11 stations in the first 13 PPM markets had enough listening to “make the book.” The webcast of New York AC “Lite FM” WLTW had a 0.6 cume rating while sister CHR “Z-100” WHTZ reached a 0.7. Both stations did better in suburban embedded markets, even topping a 1.0. In Los Angeles AC KOST and modern rock KROQ both had a 0.5 cume rating. Chicago’s WLS hit a 0.6 — with a big spike in online listening during Rush Limbaugh’s show. Arbitron SVP Bill Rose says while online listening remains primarily an at-work medium, it is proving to be more of a 25-54 phenomena than first thought. Last month, more than one in ten working Men 25-54 (11.4%) listened to a station online. For working Women 25-54 it was 10.9%. That compares to 7.5% for Persons 6+. Rose says “Streaming has been around a little while and it’s gotten a little older.”
It's a very optimistic story, one that is closer to the early FM comparison.

Now, streaming is more about "easy" and less about buffering, dropped connections, and bad audio. Mobile and dashboard access are upon us and will become easier and easier in the months and years ahead.

Five reminders I think are vital for successful streaming initiatives:
  • Open access--streams need to be available outside of proprietary players.
  • A clean stream in which the music, talent, spots, and promos create a seamless listening experience. No dead air during a spot break or that hideous "we'll be right back" music!
  • Decent audio quality (btw, Orban has a great sounding plug-in to help in this area).
  • Begin thinking about specialty streams--continuous morning show replays, interview and news maker channels, single artist channels, local event channels, etc.
  • Creative marketing initiatives designed to help listeners easily access your streams.